Shaneel Lal, the 22-year-old radical trans activist who has come under fire for their role in promoting a violent protest that led to the cancellation of a women's rights rally, has become the first transgender person to win the Young New Zealander of the Year award.
Lal was hailed by the NZ establishment for their "exceptional contribution to the rainbow community" and "their instrumental role in the fight against conversion therapy and transphobia".
Speaking about the award, Lal expressed their happiness and surprise at receiving it, saying they almost did not show up to accept it.
"I had no idea about the award and almost didn't come tonight. But I'm glad I did. I think it sends a clear message... that trans people are a part of our country," they said.
Lal also talked about the significance of the award and how it could inspire hope among parents of queer children.
"I was talking to so many parents who came up to me and said that it made them feel hopeful, that the world would be a better place for their queer child," Lal told local outlet Stuff.
It comes as a petition demanding the New Zealand Herald sack Lal as a columnist for their role in publicising the violent protest against women was removed by advocacy website Change.org with after thousands of signatures in support.
The Let Women Speak rally in Auckland was shut down after several female attendees including women's rights advocate Kellie-Jay Keen, also known as Posie Parker, were assaulted by male trans rights activists.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins earlier refused to guarantee that police will track down violent protestors who assaulted women.
Lal said that they believe their award sends a message to people like Posie Parker that transphobia is not welcome in New Zealand.
"This award sends a message to people who spew hate like Posie Parker that they are not welcome here. We are a country that values diversity, and we will not tolerate bigotry," Lal said.
However the news of Lal's award win has caused outrage with some New Zealander's pointing to a trend of questionable behaviour and unsavoury comments unbefitting of a role model for young Kiwis.
The Young New Zealander of the Year award is said to recognise outstanding young people in the country who have made a significant contribution to their community.